Infonetics Research has released excerpts from its latest Small Cell Equipment market size and forecast report, which tracks microcells, picocells, and public access femtocells and the vendors who manufacture them.
“In terms of units, yes, small cell numbers can be big, but don’t get too excited — there are a lot of serious issues that need to be resolved, and some that cannot be resolved,” Stephane Teral, principal analyst for mobile infrastructure and carrier economics at Infonetics Research, commented in a company statement.
Teral, continued, “Let’s say an operator has thousands of small cells; how do you manage them all? How do you backhaul them? When we talk to carriers, backhaul is always the biggest issue. And then, of course, they have to get interference under control. Don’t get me wrong; there is no question that a small cell market exists and it is growing fast. But the volumes will not be high enough to support the number of vendors trying to get into the small cell space. There is no El Dorado in small cells. A vendor battle is looming and not everyone is going to win.”
Richard Webb, directing analyst for microwave and mobile offload at Infonetics, and co-author of the report, added in a press statement, “Public access femtocells already make up more than 70 percent of all small cells shipped worldwide. Deploying femtocells in public metro spaces could help mobile operators address the data offload challenge. As operators utilize LTE femtocells to complement coverage and capacity for LTE macro deployment, the 4G femtocell segment will take off, becoming the main growth engine of the small cell market by 2014. In the meantime, carrier WiFi will be a faster-growing solution for offload, as it is often less complex to deploy compared to cellular-based small cells.”
Highlights of the small cell market show that the number of small cell units sold is forecast to grow nearly 40-fold from 2011 to 2016, including 3G microcells and picocells, 4G mini eNodeBs, and 3G and 4G public access femtocells. Global small cell revenue is also expected to grow at a 73 percent compound annual growth rate during the five years from 2011 to 2016.
Issues that affect small cell deployment vary from region to region and include backhaul link quality and affordability, intercell interference, spectrum availability and regulatory restrictions.